There Is No Hypothetical “Other” Common Core
April 30, 2013 3 Comments
Over the last few months there’s been an uptick in critiques of the Common Core. Some are legitimate (implementation!), some are asinine (indoctrination!), and some fall somewhere in between. One complaint that slots into the third category is that the Common Core simply isn’t the right collection of standards and curricular guidelines for getting the kind of teaching and learning we want. For example, here’s Shaun Johnson at HuffPo:
Without getting into the weeds of curriculum theory, information from the CCSSI makes it very plain that we’re dealing with something much more precise than generic standards. The mission of the CCSS is very clear that the ultimate purpose of education and schooling is to transfer the “knowledge and skills” in order to “compete successfully in the global economy.” Preparation for the world of work and economic competitiveness, increased productivity and efficiency, limit the kinds of conversations educators can have with students. It defines what knowledge and skills are important and admits unmistakably that an educated person is a productive worker.
This interpretation of the CCSS exhibits an incredible level of naiveté regarding political discourse in America. The official goal of the standards is to help students “compete” in the “global economy” because that’s the rhetoric people in focus groups want to hear. In the last five years every political contest has been about proving you care or know more about job creation, and so the proponents of the CCSS couched its justification in rhetoric about jobs. But that’s all it is. Relatively empty rhetoric. Is Johnson really arguing that delineating what type of algebraic transformations a 7th grader should know will limit what that student ultimately can learn and accomplish?
What Johnson hints at but doesn’t actually address is the question of what would have happened if the CCSS mission was to “develop well-rounded citizens who posses the skills needed to strengthen our Democracy.” Does Johnson believe that in an alternate universe we could have had a radically different group of curriculum experts design a radically different set of standards? I think the answer is a resounding no. The CCSS had buy-in from a diverse group of our best organizations and was designed by our best people. It was based on state-of-the-art thinking that emerged from a wide range of beliefs and life experiences. Regardless of the actual words used to talk about the CCSS, a large scale effort to create new standards between 2010 and 2015 was always going to give us something similar to what we got. The idea that there is some other type of “less-curricular” standards we realistically could have come up with doesn’t hold water.